Tag Archives: Northern Soul

9 of the best – northern soul stompers

A compilation for a snowy weekend in Blighty. My 9 favourite northern soul belters in chronological order. Some very tough decisions and soul searching went into curating this list.

Frank Wilson ‎– Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) (1965)

The Steinways – My Heart’s Not In It Anymore (1966)

The Tomangoes – I Really Love You (1966)

Rubin – You’ve Been Away (1967)

The Fi-Dels – Try A Little Harder (1967)

Chuck Wood ‎- Seven Days Too Long (1967)

Freddie Chavez – They’ll Never Know Why (1968)

 The Impressions – Stay Close to Me (1968)

Carrie Cleveland – Love Will Set You Free (1980)


Honourable mentions also go to: Ray Pollard for ‘The Drifter’ (1965); Luther Ingram for ‘If It’s All The Same To You Babe’ (1966); Carol And Gerri ‎for ‘How Can I Ever Find The Way’ (1966); Morris Chestnut for ‘Too Darn Soulful’ (1967); The Formations ‎for ‘At The Top Of The Stairs’ (1967); Barbara Acklin for ‘Am I The Same Girl‘ (1968); Epitome Of Sound for ‘You Don’t Love Me’ (1968); Dobie Gray ‎for ‘Honey, You Can’t Take It Back’ (1970); The Velvets for ‘I Got To Find Me Somebody’ (1973) and Smith Brothers for ‘There Can Be A Better Way’ (1974).

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Freddie Chavez – They’ll Never Know Why (1968)


A huge tune in the halcyon days of the legendary Wigan Casino, this dance floor filler was recorded by soul musician and bandleader Freddie Chavez. This pressing was rare, touched by latino horns and blessed with rarity. Northern Soul glory.

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Frank Wilson ‎– Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) (1965)


Frank Wilson, who later became a minister, wrote or co-wrote the hits ‘Love Child’ for Diana Ross and the Supremes, ‘Chained’ for Marvin Gaye and ‘All I Need’ for the Temptations. But before all of those shenanigans, he recorded this Northern Soul belter. The story goes that after the recording, Motown’s Berry Gordy asked Wilson to concentrate on writing rather than singing. The record never saw the light of day, because Gordy destroyed all the promo copies, save one that surfaced in 1977. Hence the Holy Grail of rare Northern Soul came about. A second copy was discovered in 1990 and in 1996 the record was bought by Kenny Burrell for £15,000, making it the most expensive 7″ single ever.

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The Fi-Dels – Try A Little Harder (1967)


Another slice of Northern Soul on a Thursday. Producer and writer Bob Relf was one half of Bob & Earl of ‘Harlem Shuffle’ fame. Relf co-wrote ‘Try A Little Harder’ and it was originally released on the LA-based Keymen Records in 1967. A 1975 release on Vee Jay Records followed to cater for the UK’s demand for superior and rare examples of the Motown sound coming from all over the US. The re-release featured a “Keymen Strings” instrumental version on the B-side. The instrumental  became as much of a Northern Soul standard as its flip.

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Chuck Wood ‎- Seven Days Too Long (1967)


Dexys’s ‘Geno’ featured on their debut studio album Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, alongside a cover version of Chuck Wood’s ‘Seven Days Too Long’. It’s good, but not a patch on the original.

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The Impressions – Stay Close To Me (1968)


Close to you, close to me… get it? The pressing of the LP This Is My Country looks and reads as if it should be a protest album by Chicago-based The Impressions. However, aside of the title track, the album was anything but. For example, the Curtis Mayfield-penned track ‘Stay Close To Me’ sounds more like upbeat Motown than gritty Chicago soul. In fact, The Five Stairsteps & Cubie version would become a Northern Soul dance floor staple. Both records were released in 1968 on Mayfield’s Curtom Records label. Have a great weekend.

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Velvet Hammer – Happy (1977)

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In 1977, Andre Williams recorded a number of tracks in Chicago with a band Williamsput. The collaboration was called the Velvet Hammer and represented Williams’ foray into the world of disco. In truth, the music became more prevalent on the Northern Soul scene. ‘Happy’ was the B-side to ‘Party Hardy’. Pharrell Williams certainly flipped the disc over.

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Eddie Parker – But If You Must Go (1977)

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Eddie Parker

Some more midweek soul. In the late 1960s, Detroit soul singer and songwriter Lorraine Chandler teamed together with songwriter and producer Jack Ashford, previously known for his work with the Funk Brothers. Together they penned songs for RCA and Ashford’s Pied Piper Productions. Their releases included the classic Northern Soul staples Smith Brothers’ ‘There Can Be A Better Way’ and Eddie Parker’s ‘Love You Baby’. But it’s one of their non releases I want to share today. Eddie Parker’s ‘But if You Must Go’ is the finest of soul. How did this one not get the audience it deserved?! We hear it today because Ashford relocated from the Motor City to La La Land, reviewed his back catalogue under the sun and released this gem on Beverly Hills label Miko Records in 1977.

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Luther Ingram – If It’s All The Same To You Babe (1966)


Luther Ingram

In soul circles, Luther Ingram’s 1966 recording on the HIB Records is just as famous for its call-to-dance instrumental B-side ‘Exus Trek’. Essentially the same track with vocals, ‘If It’s All The Same To You Babe’ also benefits from an incredible backing band – reputedly the Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band, moonlighting with a couple of session violinists. Popcorn Wylie wrote the track and it was recorded in Golden World Records, Detroit.

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Ray Pollard – Drifter (1965)


Ray Pollard
After a decade of so with The Wanderers and before a stint with the Latin-Soul Hector Rivera Orchestra, the late great Ray Pollard recorded three solo singles for United Artists, including the classic ‘The Drifter’. A veteran of the Korean War, where he had lost his left hand while serving in the United States Army, Pollard was able to tap into his experiences to create this beat ballad. It would go onto become a staple track of the UK Northern Soul scene. Before he died in 2005, soul DJ Ralph Tee popped across the pond and captured the Vegas-set video featured.

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Lou Pride – I’m Com’un Home In The Morn’un (1972)


Lou Pride

Until DJ Ian Levine widened the gap between the sets of the Blackpool Mecca and the Wigan Casino by playing modern 70s records at the former, the UK’s Northern Soul scene was about the syncopated beat of a 1960s soul stomper. This was intentionally disconnected from the 1970s funk that was filling the dance floors of the UK’s capital. But then there was a track like Lou Pride’s ‘I’m Com’un Home In The Morn’un’. Its release on Suemi Records was extremely rare, which always enamoured Northern Soul connoisseurs. But it was able to incorporate a fast tempo and the jazzy groove of early funk to earn its place on any of the aforementioned dance floors.

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Yvonne Baker – You Didn’t Say a Word (1967)


Yvonne Baker

Last night, I went to see the new movie Northern Soul. It was a nostalgic evening of label, track and cameo spotting. (Lisa Stansfield, where have you been?) One label, Cameo-Parkway Records gets a special mention. I know the label because it pressed Yvonne Baker’s 1967 single ‘To Prove My Love Is True’. While Baker had had limited success as a soul singer with The Sensations, her voice would live on, because that single’s B-side ‘You Didn’t Say a Word’ would become a stomper on the floors up north. Keep the faith.

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Oscar Brown Jr. – Brother, Where Are You? (1965)


Oscar Brown Jr.

In 1963, Oscar Brown, Jr. composed the classic ‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson, which became a Northern Soul staple in the following decade. But Oscar was no one hit wonder – in 1965, he released Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes to Washington, an album of his songs recorded live at The Cellar Door nightclub in Washington D.C. During the recording, he did this… ‘Brother, Where Are You?’. Terry Callier was listening.

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Carrie Cleveland – Love Will Set You Free (1980)

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Carrie Cleveland

Now for a slice of classic northern soul prior to a weekend break. Carrie Cleveland was an Oakland resident and regular performer in the Bay area in the 1970s. ‘Love Will Set You Free’ is a 1970s sound that was released on her rare 1980-pressed long player Looking Up. Sheer bliss. Have a great weekend.

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Barbara Acklin – Am I the Same Girl (1968)

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Barbara Acklin

‘Am I the Same Girl’ was first recorded by Barbara Acklin in 1968, but not before the song had already had been stripped of its vocals and put out by the label Brunswick as a jazz instrumental. The jazz crossover ‘Soulful Strut’ by Young-Holt Unlimited was so successful – it sold a million copies – that it actually undermined the success of Acklin’s soul classic version that followed. Whatever the history, Acklin’s vocals shine through.

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